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Opinion: Tamaqua R.R. station gets stamp of approval

U.S. postage stamps showing people or places from the five-county Times News area are indeed rare, which is why we are buzzing with the news that the Tamaqua railroad station will be featured on one.

Postal officials described the borough’s landmark as an architectural gem with a rich history.

The train station traces its construction nearly a century and a half ago during an era when the railroads were the way to travel in our country, and Tamaqua was a major hub for passengers and freight service in the heart of the anthracite coal region of Schuylkill and Carbon counties.

Passenger service ended more than 60 years ago, but thanks to the efforts of volunteer groups and the purchaser of the property, the train station has been refurbished into the thriving Tamaqua Station Restaurant, located appropriately enough at 18 N. Railroad St.

The Tamaqua station is one of five that will be featured in the 2023 U.S. Postal Service’s series on railroad stations. The others are: Point of Rocks Station in Frederick County, Maryland; Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia; Santa Fe Station in San Bernardino, California, and Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Just looking around the site, you can get a sense of the town’s pride through the historic pictures on the wall. But now a new picture, a stamp featuring the Tamaqua Railroad Station, is adding to the borough’s list of boasts.

“The 2023 stamp program features a broad range of subjects and designs,” said Postal Service Stamp Services Director William Gicker. “These miniature works of art highlight our unique American culture and offer a broad selection for those looking to collect stamps or send their mail around the nation or the world.”

In announcing all of the 2023 stamp issues, postal officials said of the station series that these noteworthy buildings “began brightening the American landscape in the 19th century and, although many were torn down once they had outlived their original purpose, hundreds survived. This issuance of 20 stamps features five architectural gems (including Tamaqua’s) that continue to play important roles in their communities.”

I was curious as to how the Postal Service chooses its subjects for stamps. Established in 1957, The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee serves the Postmaster General by using collective expertise in history, science, technology, art, education, sports, and other areas of public interest. These members consider and then recommend stamp subjects to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for final approval.

The committee’s work is secretive. They meet quarterly, but the meetings are closed and confidential. The Postal Service said the committee gets about 30,000 ideas for stamp subjects every year. Of course, there are guidelines and strict criteria to even be considered as a finalist.

The committee must choose primarily American or American-related subjects, especially those which have made “extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, history, culture or environment,” the Postal Service said.

Until 2011, a living person could not appear on postage stamps, but that changed. Before that, a person had to be dead at least five years. Even earlier, it was 10 years.

Other guidelines for selection include: Events of historical significance are commemorated only at their 50th-year anniversary or later, and states are commemorated in 50-year intervals after their entry into the union.

Not commemorated are tragedies such as 9/11 or the sinking of the Lusitania. “Stamps commemorate positive contributions to American life,” the Postal Service said. Stamps also cannot commemorate persons with religious ties or religious organization because of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

The committee recommends 20 to 25 stamp subjects each year, and it generally takes three years for a stamp to be developed from inception to unveiling.

The last postage stamp I recall commemorating a subject in our area is famed Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe on a 20-cent stamp issued in 1984.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com